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Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae
Species Buteo platypterus
Length 13–17in (33–43cm)
Wingspan 32–39in (81–100cm)
Weight 10–19oz (275–550g)
Social Flocks
Lifespan Up to 14 years
Status Secure

One of the most numerous of all North American birds of prey, the Broad-winged Hawk migrates in huge flocks or “kettles,” with thousands of birds gliding on rising thermals. Some birds winter in Florida, but the majority average about 70 miles (110km) a day to log more than 4,000 miles (6,500km) before ending up in Brazil, Bolivia, and even some of the Caribbean islands. Compared to its two cousins, the Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, the Broad-winged Hawk is slightly smaller, but stockier. Adults are easily identified by a broad, white-and-black band on their tails. Broad-winged Hawks have two color forms, the light one being more common than the dark, sooty brown one.

VOICE High-pitched peeoweee call, first note shorter and higher-pitched.

NESTING Platform of fresh twigs or dead sticks, often on old squirrel, hawk, or crow nest in tree; 2–3 eggs; 1 brood; April–August.

FEEDING Eats small mammals, toads, frogs, snakes, grouse chicks, insects, and spiders; crabs in winter.

FLIGHT: circles above forest canopy with wings and tail spread; short flights from branch to branch.


From an elevated perch, this hawk scans for vertebrate prey such as rodents.


Breeds across Canada (but not the Rockies) and in the eastern US (not west of the 100th meridien), in forested areas with deciduous, conifers, and mixed trees, with clearings and water nearby. Concentrations of migrants can be seen at bottlenecks such as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and Panama.